Bali is magnificent. But, whether you come to Ubud to unwind or spend your days laying out in Seminyak, do you ever wonder think of going beyond Bali? There’s a charm and warmness about the island (and its inhabitants) that draws you in. However, after spending a few weeks in Indonesia I was craving something else. I went in August and September during a time when the weather is warm, lacks the humidity of nearby Singapore and the waters are clear. Many tourists flock to the island during this time given the dry season is in full force and coincides with summer break\school holidays of the Northern Hemisphere. My friends had come into Bali from Los Angeles for a few days. So, we spent time together at the rice terraces, exploring the bustling streets of Ubud, sunning ourselves on the beaches of Nusa Dua, and enjoying the company of mischievous (and handsy) macaques. We fell into a last minute stay at a gorgeous culturally inspired villa property I wrote about here. The trip with my friends was filled with so many laughs, a seemingly endless number of photographs, a little Bali Belly (after I insisted on brushing my teeth with the tap water), and some long hugs as we said goodbye. A few days following their departure, I had a reunion with another friend from home. It was such a unique experience getting to share one of my favorite restaurants with people that grew up maybe 10 minutes from where I did. I got to share in Hope’s infinite Bali wisdom, as she’s someone who has come to the island for decades.
I wasn’t planning to explore more new islands, especially not after leaving Bali for Borneo. That particular experience was life changing, but not the easiest in terms of travel time or comfort. I then ended up stopping off at a handful of islands in the Derawan Archipelago. It felt almost too chaotic to try and immerse myself in a new place with the remaining time I had. I’m someone who likes to root into a place, to explore, get a little lost and find my way to gorgeous secret gems. I decided to head to Nusa Lembongan somewhere between photographing orangutans in Borneo, swimming in a lake full of jellyfish in the Derawan Archipelago and finding my way back to Bali . The most formative moment in directing my plans to the island was when I saw an image of a submerged Buddha surrounded by snorkelers and divers. It was one of the most unique perspectives I had seen of Bali. If you’ve done any research on Bali so far I’m sure you’ve come face to face with and endless number of captures from a handful of locations. These places are popular for a reason because they’re unique, exude some degree of exotic flare and quite photogenic. I always make it a point to try and visit the more frequently visited areas of a place at dawn or dusk. I’m someone who likes quiet, privacy and solace… So, when I saw the underwater Buddha it felt like this would be the underwater getaway I had been craving. I kept showing people the image on my phone and no one knew how to get there! Finally, I met a guide named Henda on my fast cruise from Sanur, Bali to the island of Lembongan. He had a friend working at a restaurant who free dives that knew of the Buddha, stupas and underwater status. His uncle ended up taking me on his boat to enjoy the Penida Wall first and after that we went to the Buddha. It was such a peaceful and fantastic experience for me being the only one in the water taking in the sights. Balinese hospitality is honestly so overwhelming. I am constantly met with the biggest smiles, genuinely asked how I am doing, invited over for tea and welcomed into the fold. Traveling in Bali and the surrounding islands of Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida was a joyous experience I will never forget.